Burning water in Alberta leads to lawsuit: fracking

Gasland, a film by Josh Fox documented the impact of fracking on American water with a quiet and disturbingly beautiful narrative.  But where did fracking come from? "Invented in the 1950s by Halliburton Co., hydraulic fracking was initially used for drilling only about one in a hundred natural gas wells, but now it’s being applied to most production in North America, Joyce Nelson of The Center for Canadian Policy Alternatives reports.  Before the end of 2009, the industry plans to complete at least 4,000 hydraulic fracturing jobs in northern B.C. alone – mostly in the Motney shale region of northeastern B.C. and the Horn River Basin near Fort Nelson. But the problem is widespread in Canada, too."

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``The connection between water wells and natural gas development in Rosebud has been studied extensively, including a detailed study by the Alberta Research Council, and there was no connection found between coalbed methane development and groundwater that is used for water wells,'' says Alan Boras, EnCana's vice-president of media relations.

``It's highly regulated. We've been operating in the area for decades and methane has been known to exist at shallow depths since people settled there and started drilling water wells.''

The research council study in 2008 concluded methane found in the area's wells is naturally occurring and exists in areas where underground water supplies come from coal seams.

There is no doubt naturally occurring methane will show up in well water, says Ben Parfitt, a Victoria-based researcher with the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives.

``The question is whether or not the appearance of gas at high levels in her water was linked in some way to the escalation in industry fracking activities,'' says Parfitt, who wrote a report on fracking and groundwater commissioned by the University of Toronto's Munk School of Global Affairs.

Parfitt says there's evidence of ``significant problems'' wherever there's been fracking, which involves pumping water, nitrogen, chemicals and sand into the ground at the rate of 5,000 pounds per square inch.

``The incredible force that is required in these fracking operations is opening up channels in underground formations in ways that the industry either couldn't foresee or didn't foresee,'' he says.

``You'll end up with cracks and contamination corridors that allow for gas to migrate, that allow for contaminated water to migrate, that allow for the sand used in the fracking process to migrate. That's what gives rise to situations that Jessica Ernst and others are encountering.''

Dawson says the coalbeds in the Rosebud area have led the industry to use a different fracturing technique. Instead of using water, companies use nitrogen, which is natural and more effective.

``It is not absorbed by the formation and because it's a gas, it flows back and is vented to the atmosphere and doesn't do any damage to the formation.''

Ernst recently had an opportunity to tell her story and make recommendations to governments at the 19th session of the United Nations Commission on Sustainable Development in New York City.

She says she has heard the arguments that her well water was contaminated naturally and rejects them. She now trucks clean water into her home.

She is realistic about her lawsuit.

``My chances of getting money out of this are quite slim and, in fact, it's going to cost me everything I have. I'm selling what I have to pay for this,'' she says.

``I'm using all my savings because I believe it's that important and I'm doing it to expose the truth. I'm not doing it for any money. I would rather not do this case.

``If it costs me my savings to get the truth, I think it's worth it.''

From The Vancouver Observer:

Gasland, a film by Josh Fox documented the impact of fracking on American water with a quiet and disturbingly beautiful narrative.  But where did fracking come from?

 "Invented in the 1950s by Halliburton Co., hydraulic fracking was initially used for drilling only about one in a hundred natural gas wells, but now it’s being applied to most production in North America, Joyce Nelson of The Center for Canadian Policy Alternatives reports.  Before the end of 2009, the industry plans to complete at least 4,000 hydraulic fracturing jobs in northern B.C. alone – mostly in the Motney shale region of northeastern B.C. and the Horn River Basin near Fort Nelson. But the problem is widespread in Canada, too." 

In conclusion, Nelson wrties:

We appear to be trading the safety and security of our water for the safety and security of the natural gas industry. While natural gas is touted as a “clean energy” source, the method of extracting this fossil fuel is dirty, indeed.

 

Source: Vancouver Observer

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